Parks and urban gardens may do more than just get city dwellers back to nature -- a new British study suggests there's also a large benefit to their overall well-being.
Specifically, people with access to numerous green areas reported less mental distress and higher levels of life satisfaction than those without such access, according to the study published online April 22 in the journal Psychological Science.
This link between green spaces and greater well-being held true even after the researchers accounted for factor such as income, job and marital status and type of housing. In fact, the positive impact of green spaces on well-being was equal to about one-third that of being married and equal to one-tenth of being employed vs. unemployed, they said.
"These kinds of comparisons are important for policymakers when trying to decide how to invest scarce public resources, such as for park development or upkeep, and figuring out what 'bang' they'll get for their buck," study leader Mathew White, of the University of Exeter's European Center for Environment and Human Health in Truro, said in a university news release.
The findings come from an analysis of data from more than 10,000 people in U.K. households between 1991 and 2008.
While this study does not prove that moving to an area with more green spaces will increase a person's happiness or sense of well-being, it does fit with previous research showing that short periods of time in a green space can improve mood and mental skills.
"This research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects that urbanization and city planning can have on population health and well-being," White concluded.